Once upon a time, Norton Street spelled one thing – Little Italy. Sydney's very own stretch of vibrant, traditional, and authentic Italian life. Cafés, patisseries, barbershops, butchers, and of course… restaurants. Garlic and herbs in the air, incredible tastes and smells from one end to the other, and hundreds, maybe even thousands, of satisfied patrons perched on their seats. To the Italians, to their second and third generations, and to their grateful and welcoming Australian hosts of Leichardt, food was company, and company always involved food.
Members of the Italian-Australian community, thousands more locals who are not, and even more from far and wide will remember this time with a smile on their face and a story to tell. These days, Norton Street is a shadow of its former self. With council sticking its business in the business of those who mean business, this fine suburb has fallen from greatness. There remains, however, a few outposts of that wonderful Italiano memory.
Fernando's is one of them. With a decorum, both inside and out, recreating some of the thousand-year old terraces of old Italy, you could easily forget you're still within the confines of our 227-year-old Sydney. The lighting is romantic, the scenery is perfect. The speciality/function menu, one week ago, offered a $60-per-person Valentine's Day special, and it is telling – this is a place you bring someone special.
Meatballs in Bolognese sauce with traditional Italian bread
This diamond of a restaurant is run by a young bloke by the name of Anthony, with generations of Italian gourmet and creativity in his blood. He sits me and two friends down in the peaceful garden out back, offering his personal take on each dish that catches our eye, and several do. We end up with a feast in front of us, starting with a plate of garlic prawns and a plate of calamari each served on a colourful, fresh salad, along with a dozen oysters. We follow this with a plate of beef Carpaccio, a light dish of raw, thinly sliced fillet steak served with cheese, lemon, herbs, and olive oil. The mains involve a brilliant plate of veal medallions, cooked in a creamy sauce, and a bowl of the best beef tortellini I've had in my life, served with prosciutto and garnished with fresh parmasen. Eager to sample as much of this incredible menu as possible, we stuff ourselves further with a dish of homemade meatballs and traditional Italian bread, before sharing a plate of Anthony's personal recipe for Cannolis.